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How Cameras, Not Cops, Could Enforce HOV Lane Rules in NYC

Because people aren't taking New York City's HOV lane laws seriously, often driving in the lane with less than three passengers, the NYPD is considering cameras and video analytics to track infractions.

(TNS) — With hundreds of drivers continuing to flout the three-passenger requirement for New York City’s HOV lanes on a daily basis, local elected officials are continuing their push to bring high-tech, camera-based HOV lane enforcement technology to The Big Apple.

Borough President James Oddo and Councilman Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island) recently sat down with a host of city agencies — including the Mayor’s Office, the NYPD and the Department of Transportation (DOT) — to discuss longstanding issues regarding the operation and enforcement of the city’s HOV lanes.

“The NYPD detailed its data on summonses, and while I respect and appreciate their efforts, I reiterated my belief that we should be aggressively pursuing available technological help,” said Oddo.

While the permanent implementation of such a system would be longer term, requiring approval from the state legislature, Oddo suggested a short-term pilot program to assess the effectiveness of these technologies in the New York City market.

“In the near term, we want to see a pilot program implemented (no actual summonses would be issued), to test the efficacy of the various camera systems, as San Francisco did prior to receiving state approval,” Oddo said.

Last year San Francisco contracted three companies, including Conduent, and tested their systems across the same stretch of freeway in consecutive months to determine the effectiveness of the devices.

So how do these systems ensure that the appropriate number of passengers are present when traveling in an HOV lane?

Conduent’s Vehicle Passenger Detection System uses video analytics to determine the number of occupants in vehicles traveling up to 100 miles per hour with a 95 percent accuracy rate, according to a Conduent spokesperson.

The system uses geometric algorithms to determine whether or not a seat is vacant, without using facial recognition technology.

The high-quality images, alongside license plate data, are encrypted and stored locally, allowing for full automation of enforcement, according to a Conduent spokesperson.

“High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are key components to fighting congestion and improving the performance of a city’s transportation system. When HOV/HOT lanes flow at reliable speeds, evidence shows that transit ridership goes up and even general purpose lanes see a decrease in average travel times,” the spokesperson said.

The company notes that automated HOV lane enforcement also provides safety benefits, in addition to improving traffic flow.

“Currently, police officers have to park on the shoulder and visually confirm whether or not there are enough passengers in the car. When they see a violation, officers have to act fast, creating a potentially dangerous situation where they have to accelerate to highway speeds, merge into busy traffic, and deal with a side-of-the-road citation that also creates its own set of traffic impacts and safety risks,” the spokesperson said.

In November, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Oddo that the department believed the technology “could be a powerful tool in deterring motorists from using these HOV facilities illegally."

“I am happy to report that the DOT is currently researching this technology through ongoing discussions with peer jurisdictions and municipalities who have experience with HOV compliance monitoring technology,” Trottenberg said.

The DOT said it will continue to provide additional details regarding HOV lane enforcement technology upon completing the initial research.

©2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.